Tom's Hardware Verdict
Corsair's HS35 makes a lot of great calls in the design category. But unfortunately this budget gaming headset can't quite nail the fundamental audio quality. An extra $20-$30 buys you much more quality.
Loose bass response
Uncomfortable on bigger ears
Why you can trust Tom's Hardware
You’re spoiled for choice if you have $100 or more to drop on one of the best gaming headsets, and truthfully there are many good options on the market at that price point currently. When you reduce that budget below $50 though, rogue offerings and downright poor quality models make an uptick. Corsair’s job with this new HS35 headset, really, is to win your trust.
Available for $30-$40 /£30-£40 in a range of colors, it’s about as low-priced as we’ve seen major manufacturers go. Note that I carefully used "low-price" rather than "cheap" because this headset definitely isn’t the latter. With 50mm drivers, a nice mix of construction materials and a detachable mic, the HS35 has plenty to offer for the money.
Corsair HS35 Specifications
|Unidirectional noise cancelling
|0.6 pounds (250g)
|5.9 feet (1.8m)
Design and Comfort
As you’d expect from a headset at this price point, construction materials are primarily plastic, with an aluminium headband forming the base frame. While some manufacturers often arrive at a fairly perfunctory overall look using plastic, Corsair has a knack for keeping it classy with their budget headsets, as is evident here, as well as with the HS35's siblings, the HS50 and HS70.
A smart mix of matte and gloss finishes conveys an elegant overall look, and the brushed metal logos on each ear cup are anything but budget. Commendations to Corsair for arriving at such a sleek overall look on a shoestring budget.
Those good decisions continue into the headband and earcup padding, the former being especially generous. Cloth fabric does have a significant bearing on the overall sound of any headset, and this one’s no exception. Since the HS35’s cloth fabric doesn’t create that snug contact point of a leatherette pad, there’s some sound bleed and a little low-end is lost. However, it’s a far more breathable fabric and thus really comes into its own during longer sessions and warm seasons.
The earcups are large enough to accommodate most ears comfortably, but like the HS50 and HS70, they’re fairly shallow in the pad so can press against the antihelix (the harder ridge of your outer ear) if your ears are on the larger side. Pro tip: it’s possible to mitigate this a bit, but not completely, by extending the headband out further.
At 0.6 pounds (250g), these are light cans. Light doesn’t always equate to comfortable, since one of this reviewer’s all-time favorites, the HyperX Cloud Alpha, weighs nearly 100g more than this (0.7 pounds, 336g). But weight is certainly an important factor in comfort over time. With its headband design, the HS35 doesn't dig in at the top of the head. But, again, if you have slightly larger ears, there's rubbing or pressing on your antihelix that doesn’t go away during longer sessions.
Simple, easy-to-find controls for volume and mic muting are at the rear of the left earcup, while the detachable mic connects at the front left. The cable’s rubberized (rather than braided) and ends in a 3.5mm connection, which is a concession to the HS35’s compatibility with PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. I'm down with Cosair’s call to place the controls at the rear of the headset itself rather than in an inline (manual control device on the cord). My muscle memory has my hand reach in that direction for volume changes now, and it’d take a heck of a beautiful inline to get me to change that habit.
The detachable mic stays in position perfectly and couldn’t be simpler to remove or reattach. However, I did occasionally encounter some crackle when doing so. There’s little to no crackle when moving the mic arm around and no loud pops when muting and unmuting the mic, which you sometimes hear with (lesser) budget headsets.
It’s a very impressive look and feel for the price, and one you can put a personal spin on, thanks to four different color choices. We’ll take black every time, thanks very much, but the green, red and blue variants certainly pop, and gamers don’t usually have this much choice in a $40 headset’s appearance.
All those contrasting finishes and memory foam pads don’t count for much if the drivers sound like waterlogged phone speakers. Sounding similar to Corsair's HS50 or HS70 headsets, the HS35 gets the job done with a competent tone. It hits the standard 20-20,000Hz frequency response range, there’s enough low-end to really sell the dramatic in-game explosions and gunfights and has enough clarity to ensure that low-end doesn’t drown anything else out.
The low-end characteristics, powered by those ample 50mm drivers, are that of quite a loose sound, similar to the bass you hear when you turn on DTS: HeadphoneX virtual surround sound technology. Here, again due in part to the contact pad material, there’s less depth to it.
There is plenty of clarity to the overall sound, which Corsair describes as "custom-tuned." It’s a similar response to specifically eSports-focused headsets, like Logitech’s G Pro, in that it creates a wide soundscape with quite a harsh, gritty sound - ideal for picking out PUBG sound cues, but less so for kicking back on a music streaming platform. There, you hear the absence of warmth and notice the artifice in the bass response.
That’s not to say the HS35 underperforms or disappoints within the context of its pricing. It’s just worth establishing that, no, this doesn’t magically sound as good as gaming headsets four times the price, or audiophile-grade headphones. But pitted against similarly priced headsets, the HS35 has great clarity to the table and doesn’t distort audibly at max volume. Incidentally, max volume is pretty loud with these babies. There's ample headroom available, and the tone’s consistent at low and high volume. There’s no digital surround available here, but the stereo spread sounds nice and wide, again tuned for competitive gaming, where your ears are working hard to position others around you.
The Discord-certified mic keeps external noise to a minimum, thanks to some fairly aggressive noise cancellation, and your voice is certainly clear. With a 20-20,000Hz frequency response range, it was always going to miss a bit of low-end, but we found it produces a slightly nasal sound on top of that, possibly because of that noise cancellation.
Features and Software
A bit of expectation management’s required of these $40 cans in the features and software department. In terms of additional features, there’s … a Y splitter cable. That’s all she wrote.
Connecting to your PC via 3.5mm analog, the HS35 can’t be tweaked and profiled with Corsair’s CUE software, which is a bit of a shame. The deal-sweetener is compatibility with consoles and mobile devices; although you'll need an adapter if you don't have a 3.5mm jack.
But that all seems like a decent tradeoff to us in exchange for a high overall build quality, an attractive look and clear sound.
The Corsair HS35 is a good-looking headset to start. We love the subtle mix of matte and high-shine gloss finishes and the simple, metallic Corsair logos on each earcup. No expense has been spared at the contact pads, which has luxurious-feeling memory foam padding that will keep you going for hours at a time. Plus, the control layout’s perfect.
The sound is where you notice a difference between the HS35 and higher end models. Despite beefy 50mm drivers providing some low-end oomph, there’s a harshness to the overall tone that seems geared towards game sound spaces at the expense of other usage scenarios. Meanwhile, the mic does its job with a minimum of fuss, producing a slightly tinny sound but cutting out mechanical keyboard and other unwanted sounds. It’s lacking anything in the way of added extras (unless a Y splitter is a luxury in your book) or tweakable features.
Our primary reservation isn’t with the price, but rather with the fact that you can buy much better sound quality for as little as $20-$30 more. HyperX’s Cloud range is a prime example, ready to blow your head off with its bass response but still balanced enough to articulate the rest of the EQ in detail.
But the HS35 is an admirable performer for the money, excelling particularly in build quality and aesthetics.
Image Credits: Corsair
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